BOM says Australian fire seasons are getting longer and more extreme

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has revealed that this year’s extreme fire season was not a one-off and that the country is seeing annual fire seasons which are significantly longer.

Karl Braganza, head of climate monitoring at BOM, spoke yesterday at the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements, which is set to look into last summer’s fire season and examine the ways in which we can better prepare and respond in the future.

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Photo: Hamish Weir

BOM has described that last summer’s fires were not a “one-off” and we will be continuing to see longer seasons and more extreme conditions.

According to The Canberra Times, Dr Braganza described that the fires were not a “one-off event”:

“The frequency of these events, if we look at the historical record, seems to be increasing,” he described. “These large fire events, when you look back over the 20th and 19 century, were not as frequent as this century.”

BOM has predicted that these fire seasons will start earlier and finish later, with the South Coast of NSW and eastern Victoria seeing fire conditions arriving three months earlier, towards the end of August instead of the end of November. The means that the seasons themselves have increased by almost four months in parts of eastern Australia over the last 70 years.

Similarly, where previously the worst of the fires had occurred around February and March – known as “Black Summer” – now the worst is happening in spring.

“The fire season is extending and that is probably most significant in spring,” Dr Braganza described. “We’re getting early season heatwaves.”

Whilst at this point it seems like wetter conditions this year may lead to a better prospect for next season, BOM is certain that overall these fire seasons will continue to worsen.

The federal royal commission is due to submit its findings in August, following a report which will be submitted by NSW a month prior.